ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have stressed the importance of observing the hosepipe ban to protecting the future of our 'vital' rivers.

The ban was introduced on April 5 by water suppliers across the South East following the third-warmest March - and fifth driest - since records began in 1910.

Anyone caught breaching it could face a fine of up to £1,000.

Kathryn Graves from the River Chess Association said: "It's vital (people observe the ban) really, the reason they chose to do the hosepipe ban is because of the sheer volume of water it uses - 1,000 litres an hour - so it's a way of reducing the usage whilst not inconveniencing people too much."

She added: "It's vital we get water levels up, the upper section in Chesham has been dry since last June and it's having a devastating impact on the wildlife, which should be living there.

"It takes 10 years for a dry river to recover so the sooner we can get water back into the acquifer the better it is for everyone."

The Misbourne River has also been experiencing problems - the depth of the groundwater below the riverbed at Chalfont St Peter has dropped from just above zero in March 2008 to minus three metres in March this year, in Chalfont St Giles it is now as low as minus eight metres.

Cheryl Odder is a member of the Misbourne River Action group, which helps protect the river running from Denham to Great Missenden.

She said: "We regularly take readings and the level it is at the moment is the lowest it has been in decades - we work with groups across the area to make the river corridor available for when the water returns by keeping it clear of alien plants like Japanese knotweed."

Water companies are relying on the public to report anyone breaking the ban but have denied setting up hotlines for people to report the restrictions being broken.

Thames Valley Water's chief executive Martin Baggs said: "While breaching the ban is a criminal offence, the last thing we want to have to do is prosecute people.

"We are rather asking people to work with the ban, not against it, appealing for co-operation and help in using this precious resource sparingly."

Do you agree with the ban? Email lawrencepoole@trinitysouth.co.uk